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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A prominent energy venture capital firm and large companies including Microsoft and Duke Energy are launching a new fund to help diversify the clean technology startup sector.

Driving the news: The clean energy and climate-tech focused Energy Impact Partners (EIP) on Wednesday morning unveiled the Elevate Future Fund.

  • It aims to "create a more diverse founder community and inclusive venture capital ecosystem within the broader energy transition."
  • The goal is backing companies founded and led by people from Black, Latino, LGBTQ+ and other underrepresented groups.

How it works: The fund is initially targeting $120 million and has secured over half that from investors that also include Southern Co., Xcel Energy and several others.

EIP has largely targeted growth-stage companies, but the fund will focus on early-stage investments, said Anthony Oni, the new fund's managing partner.

"[C]ultivation of diverse founders needs to start early in the investment lifecycle — Seed and Series A as they are not receiving the early funding to make it to the later stage of investments," Oni said via email.

Why it matters: Communities of color are underrepresented in business ownership and C-Suites, and the startup world is not isolated from the problem.

  • Crunchbase News recently reported that "of the record $161 billion in venture capital invested in the U.S. last year, single-digit percentages went to Black, Latino or female entrepreneurs."
  • Also, with the world far off pace from emissions cuts needed to hold global warming in check, finding a broader pool of entrepreneurial talent matters for everyone.

Where it stands: The new fund has already made three investments, including ChargerHelp!, an LA-based tech company founded by Black women that enables fast servicing of electric vehicle charging stations.

Go deeper

Tom Steyer: Private companies starting to invest more in climate solutions

Photo: Axios

The world will have to spend four trillion dollars a year to solve the climate crisis, Tom Steyer, the billionaire founder of Farallon Capital, said at an Axios virtual event on Thursday, but private businesses will play a crucial role.

Why it matters: Steyer's comments come two weeks after the billionaire launched Galvanize, a climate tech investment platform that will back companies from the seed-stage through private equity and project finance.

Updated Sep 22, 2021 - Axios Events

Watch: A conversation on bold climate commitments

On Wednesday, September 22nd, Axios co-founder Mike Allen and energy reporter Ben Geman hosted a virtual conversation on the innovative approaches climate leaders are undertaking to reshape standards for sustainability initiatives in 2022 and beyond, featuring White House national climate adviser Gina McCarthy and Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp.

Gina McCarthy explained the Biden administration’s recent environmental priorities, the importance of mobilizing different communities to fight climate change, and how the White House is incentivizing private industries to reduce their emissions.   

  • On addressing extreme heat problems: "I think everybody’s beginning to understand as the President tours the sites of wildfires and flooding and other really big challenges like drought, there’s this silent killer for climate change that’s called excess heat, that really doesn’t get enough attention."
  • On cross-agency collaboration on climate change at a federal level: “It’s an exciting moment where people across the federal government are working together in ways they have never done before, not just to tackle wildfires and droughts and flooding and heat stress, but also to tackle the challenge of how we motivate our business sector and send them all the signals you would want us to send that shows that President Biden is committed to achieving net zero in 2050, and knows that this decade is a decisive decade.”

Fred Krupp highlighted how companies must be held accountable to pledges to reduce their emissions, how some corporations are breaking with lobby associations to become more vocal about climate change (and others are not), and how he believes debates surrounding the infrastructure bill will play out in the near future. 

  • On how corporate lobbying has fallen short: “Right now, we don’t see enough corporations lobbying on behalf of the climate sections of the reconciliation bill. This bill that’s pending in Congress is our once in a decade opportunity to get something done on climate.” 
  • On public support for the infrastructure bill: “I see an enormous amount of support in the American public for moving ahead with a sort of clean energy economy that are going to create tremendous numbers of jobs, clean the air, make people healthier.” 

Axios VP of Communications Yolanda Brignoni hosted a View from the Top segment with GE’s Chief Sustainability Officer Roger Martella, who discussed how GE is following through on their ESG goals by investing in sustainable energy technologies. 

  • “We create some of the most technically complex and critical technologies the world needs, and we’re focused today on innovating these technologies on a path to decarbonization.” 

Thank you GE for sponsoring this event.

Democrats release full text of Biden's $3.5T reconciliation package

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Friday unveiled the full text of President Biden's $3.5 trillion social spending package.

Why it matters: Democrats are racing to finish negotiations and get the bill on the floor as soon as possible so Pelosi can fulfill her promises to both House centrists and progressives about the timing and sequencing of passing the party's dual infrastructure packages.